Exploring Norfolk’s winter wonderland

Blickling National Trust

As autumn passes the baton to winter, we can find ourselves slowing down. The colder weather may keep us indoors where there’s plenty of technology to entertain us. But too much screen time can leave us feeling more stressed. We’re becoming less connected to the natural world, yet research shows that spending time in nature is good for our health.

The Wildlife Trusts and the University of Essex report that nature experiences give us many health benefits. Nature reduces anxiety and stress and improves mood, self-esteem, and attention and concentration. Exposure to nature also increases immunity and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. Such is the importance of nature to wellbeing that Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, describes it as ‘Vitamin N’.

With shorter days and less sunlight, winter blues and even depression can strike but getting outdoors can lift our spirits. Despite the colder weather, winter can be the ideal time for a nature walk and Norfolk the ideal place. Continue reading

Autumn is the perfect time for a feast of fungi

Blickling Gold: Tracy Brighten

Autumn is my favourite time to get outdoors and go for a walk. Pick a sunny day and the backdrop of blue sky with golden trees takes your breath away. On days like this, my worries float away with the falling leaves.

Nature is my tonic. When life’s stresses weigh me down, a walk in the woods puts the spring back in my step. When I’m breathing in the earthiness of a downpour or watching birds take flight, I feel alive.  Continue reading

Remembering a blackbird fledgling

I lift the blinds on the back door and there he is. Every morning, the garden birds arrive for breakfast but while other birds wait in the pine trees or gather on the fence, this fledgling has been sitting between the flower pots. As I open the door, he hurries forward to be first in line for the soaked mealworms I sprinkle on the patio, then under the table where he will be safe. I have grown fond of this blackbird fledgling, although I know he is quite poorly. He can no longer fly like his sibling. Continue reading

Starling

Starling

Starling

Sleek acrobat hangs

Hacking fat for hungry chicks

From coconut shell

Image credit: Pixabay

Blackbird

Blackbird singing

 

Blackbird

Blackbird crowns his tree

Singing out the fading day

Pure notes lift and soar

 

Image credit: Pixabay

Respite in Nature

By Tracy Brighten

A story of the stresses of urban life and the need for respite in nature 

Autumn tree for respite in nature

FICTION 

The car won’t start. Flat battery. It looks like I’ll have to catch the bus. But I’ve not been on a bus for years. Anxiety charges through me.

I’ve psyched myself up and I’m ready to go, but it’s pouring with rain. The windows will be steamed up and I won’t see a thing. I’ll have to rub a circle to see out and hope that my breath doesn’t fill the space faster than I can take in the view of the hills. Then there’s the smell of damp raincoats. I loathe the smell of damp raincoats. Continue reading

Spending time in nature is good for your soul

By Tracy Brighten

Spending time in nature has many health benefits, yet we find ourselves more removed from the natural world

Walk in nature

In economically developed countries, we enjoy medical and technological advances that improve our health and lifespan. We have education, transport, energy, and communication systems that give us greater opportunities for careers, business and travel, as well as a more comfortable lifestyle.

You might expect people to be happier than ever. Continue reading

Nature prevents disease and boosts wellbeing

By Tracy Brighten

Scientific research backs up what conservation groups and nature enthusiasts know: spending time in nature is good for us

Research is increasingly showing the importance of a public health focus on disease prevention, with nature gaining ground as a natural approach to tackle a range of health problems. Continue reading

‘Searching for Ruru’: a native owl

By Tracy Brighten

An extract from my short memoir on searching for New Zealand’s owl

Perico 2 (800x566)

The memoir tells the story of a trip I made with my daughter to a small island in the Hauraki Gulf during her study on vocalisations of morepork, or ruru in Maori. I felt privileged to follow and watch this beautiful owl and my daughter in their natural habitat. Continue reading

Nature’s song thrush inspires hope in gloomy times

The winter carolings of Hardy’s frail thrush send a poignant message

Winter landscape

My favourite poem, The Darkling Thrush highlights Hardy’s despair at the changes he witnessed as England’s agricultural based society was impacted by the industrial revolution. The narrator describes a bleak landscape that reflects this despair. He sees a “frail, gaunt, and small” thrush, suggesting that nature is also affected by the changes. Continue reading

Art, music and nature good for our health

By Tracy Brighten

If you feel awe on seeing a breath-taking view, joy on hearing a song thrush’s trills, or contentment on listening to Mozart, you may also enjoy good health

Science Nutshell panoramic view

Researchers in a study at UC Berkeley found a biological pathway between positive emotions and good health that involves pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines are proteins that interact with immune system cells to regulate the inflammatory response to infection, disease and injury. However, sustained high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can be damaging and are associated with type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Continue reading